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“The Elusive Emily D. West, Folksong’s Fabled ‘Yellow Rose of Texas.’” 2001: A Texas Folklore Odyssey, PTFS LVIII, 2001

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

The Elusive Emily D. West,

Folksong’s Fabled “Yellow

Rose of Texas”


The purpose of this paper is to show how a haunt has crept into the hallowed halls of history and hopefully to exorcise it.

I am not an iconoclast. I love the old Texas traditions, its songs and legends. I was raised on the old tales and tunes, and I have made a decent living and had a happy profession teaching and talking about Texas folklore for the past thirty-five years. So I’m going to dance with the gal that brung me till this party is over.

However, even in the realm of Texas legends, one has to draw a line somewhere (Just as Travis “undoubtedly” did at the Alamo!), and I would like to draw some parameters around the so-called and lately created legend of the Yellow Rose of Texas, both the song by that title and the subject of the song. The folklore has gotten out of hand: medals have been struck, hotels named, novels written. Who knows what lies ahead!

We have the beginnings of the story from William Bollaert, a traveler in Texas in 1842. Bollaert got his information first hand from none other than General Sam Houston:

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“Longino Guerrero’s Corrido on J. Frank Dobie.” Corners of Texas, PTFS LII, 1993

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

Longino Guerrero’s Corrido on J. Frank Dobie


The Texas Folklore Society met at the Driskill Hotel in Austin on

April 16–17, 1965. This was a memorable meeting for me because

I was president of the Society that year. My family and I were accorded the Jim Hogg Suite in honor of the occasion, and the children were much impressed. I remember the Saturday morning session very well because John O. West gave a paper on Jack Thorp and John Lomax that indicated that the latter had borrowed significantly from the former. John Lomax, Jr., was in the audience, and everybody got real quiet during the reading. Academic objectivity was maintained, however and fortunately, and no enmities were incurred.

The other thing I remember about that session was that

Américo Paredes was accompanied by two of his corrido singing friends, Longino (Lonnie) Guerrero and Frank Rios. Américo gave brief introductory remarks on the corrido as a continuing and modern folk tradition and introduced the two musicians. They concluded the Saturday morning session singing two of Lonnie’s latest corridos, “La Tragedia del Presidente Kennedy” and “El Corrido de J. Frank Dobie,” also called “Homenaje a J. Frank Dobie.” Kennedy had been assassinated in 1963 and Dobie had died in 1964, so these events were still fresh on members’ minds.

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“African-American Folklore in Texas and in the Texas Folklore Society.” Juneteenth Texas, PTFS LIV, 1996

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

African-American Folklore in Texas and in the Texas Folklore Society


Black people were a long time into Texas before the Anglos came to claim that territory as their own. Blacks of all hues and mixtures landed on the Caribbean islands with Columbus’s expeditions, and they landed on the American mainland with Cortez, Pineda, and

Narvaéz in the early 1500s. Black culture had been part of Spanish culture for over five hundred years of Moorish occupation, and black culture remained a part of Spanish culture in the New World.

And black people became a part of Texas folklore and legendry in these earliest of historical times.

Esteban (or Estevanico) the Moor was the first black man to set foot on Texas soil, as far as we know. He certainly became the most memorable of early black explorers. He was with Cabeza de Vaca when four survivors of the Narvaéz expedition walked for eight years (1528–1536) through Texas and Mexico, from Galveston to

Culiacán. Esteban was not only a survivor; he was an adapter. He was a natural linguist, quickly learning Indian dialects as the small band of Europeans passed through one tribal territory after another.

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“Singing All Day & Dinner on the Grounds.” Observations & Reflections on Texan Folklore. PTFS XXXVII, 1972

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

Singing All Day & Dinner on the Grounds


By the time we got to Harris Chapel the singing had already started.

The Sacred Harp singers of this part of East Texas, near Marshall, had gathered for their one hundredth annual all-day singing and dinner on the grounds. The meeting house was large, white, manywindowed and frame, and it sat in a clearing near the community cemetery where old cedars stood. The parking area was shaded by post oaks, and surrounding all were the pines. Sam Asbury pretty well described the sound of a full house of Old Harp singers when he recalled, “The immediate din was tremendous; at a hundred yards it was beautiful; at a distance of a half mile it was magnificent.” We parked somewhere in the “beautiful” range and could feel the music roll over us before it flowed away into the surrounding woods.

We went in with the guilt a city man feels from violating a time schedule, but there was no need to worry. There is no body of people more casual in their comings and goings than Sacred Harpers.

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“Songs of The Depression.” First-Timers and Old-Timers: The Texas Folklore Society Fire Burns On, PTFS LXVIII, 2012

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

Songs of The Depression


Beans, Bacon, and Gravy

I was born long ago, in 1894,

And I’ve seen lots of hard times, that is true;

I’ve been hungry, I’ve been cold,

And now I’m growing old.

But the worst I’ve seen is 1932.


Oh, those beans, bacon, and gravy,

They almost drive me crazy,

I eat them till I see them in my dreams,

In my dreams,

When I wake up in the morning,

A Depression day is dawning,

And I know I’ll have another mess of beans.

We have Hooverized our butter,

For blued our milk with water,

And I haven’t eaten meat in any way;

As for pies, cakes, and jelly,

We substitute sow-belly,

For which we work the county roads each day.

There are several advantages to living a long time, one of which is that you become historical. You begin to find the commonplace times of your life in history books. The Depression was a distinct part of my life, and I talked to my father about these years and it was even more distinctly a part of his.

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